Real Stories

Bravery, Survival, Success

This is Lou’s story. Before we get started, we need to disclose that we believe in the power of stories and interviews to entertain, enlighten, and inspire. However, it is essential to acknowledge that certain narratives can be deeply triggering and evoke painful emotions in some individuals. Today, we want to address a topic that is sensitive and may have a profound impact on those who have experienced domestic violence.
The following story/interview contains explicit references to domestic violence, which may be distressing or re-traumatising for survivors or individuals currently facing abusive situations. We strongly advise readers who might be triggered or in need of support to prioritise their well-being and seek assistance from domestic violence help centres or organisations within your country specialising in providing aid and support. We have included a list of help centres available in Australia, New Zealand and the United States at the bottom of this article.
Domestic violence is an alarming issue affecting numerous lives worldwide, and we understand the gravity of its impact on men, women, and children. Our intention in sharing this story is to raise awareness, foster empathy, and encourage positive change. However, we recognise that not everyone may be ready to engage with such content, and we fully respect individual boundaries and personal well-being.
If you or someone you know is experiencing domestic violence, we urge you to reach out to a trusted friend, family member, or a domestic violence helpline in your country. These helplines can provide immediate support, guidance, and resources to assist you in finding safety and healing.
Remember, you are not alone, and there is help available. Your well-being is of utmost importance, and we encourage you to prioritise self-care during your journey of healing and recovery.

So, let’s begin – buckle up!

Lou’s story begins with her love for the United States and her frequent visits to Nashville, Tennessee, in 2019. With a deep adoration for country music and strong friendships, it was only natural that she would integrate into the country music scene. During one of her visits, a mutual friend introduced her to Nick, a successful musician who performed at renowned bars in the city. There was an instant attraction and a profound connection, unlike anything Lou had experienced before. Soon after their meeting, Nick reached out to her, and their relationship quickly developed into an intense “friendship.” The beginning of the pandemic momentarily halted Lou’s travel plans, but in the summer of 2020, Nick invited Lou to Nashville for a three-month holiday. In June 2020, Nick met Lou at the airport. At this point, they were still just “friends,” but they were going to be living together for the summer, and both knew they had powerful feelings and that this would likely turn into more than a friendship. It only took days to fall in love, and within that time, Nick declared to Lou, “You won’t be leaving Nashville without a ring.” What a dream come true! Lou was finally getting her happily ever after. Nick proposed to Lou during the summer, and everything was blissful. After the holiday, Lou went back to Australia to pack up her life, and in November 2020, she decided to move to the USA to marry Nick.

Travel had always been in Lou’s nature. Originally born in the UK, she decided to move to Australia at the age of 18. She was raised in a family that valued travel and adventure tremendously, so while a move to a new country may phase many, for her, it was nothing but another exciting chapter to add to her life.

The first few weeks into the move, both Lou and Nick were caught up in their feelings and were on cloud nine. Then suddenly, things took a rapid turn right after the “marriage.” You could say this is where the abuse started, but let’s go back to the beginning of her story. Little did she know, when Nick had invited her over for the summer, he was already in a 2-year relationship. He had asked his girlfriend to move to Nashville for him and even helped her move from another state to Nashville just days before Lou’s plane from Australia landed. How this had been concealed from Lou, she had no idea. After the summer in Nashville, the bars closed due to Covid, and suddenly Nick was out of work. Lou was under the impression that he was financially stable, although that didn’t stop her from sending money to him from Australia. They were planning on building a home together, so why wouldn’t she contribute to this? She would have done anything for him. It’s only after the fact that she realizes how obvious it was that he was not financially stable because why would she be sending him money?

Nick was/is a devout Christian, while Lou was raised in a very open household, and religion had never really been a part of her life. She called herself an atheist, but when she met Nick, she opened herself to religion and God as it was a massive part of his life. It didn’t take long for Nick to use Christianity and Jesus Christ to manipulate and abuse her. During the summer of 2020, she asked a lot of questions, attended church with Nick, and even had her own experience with God. She stands by this experience and has no doubt it was an interaction with God. Despite Nick being a devout Christian, he was still adamant about them being intimate before marriage. Once they were engaged, he decided he now wanted to save intimacy for marriage with Lou. Now, you can’t just go and marry someone; you have to apply for permits and so forth, and there is a wait. But Nick decided to try and find a loophole to his own rule, so he had his brother, who is a pastor, marry them in a church in Texas. However, it wasn’t a legal marriage; it was a “marriage under God,” and so this meant they could now be intimate again. Weeks later, they did get legally married, and then four days later, her bank account was emptied. This essentially was when the marriage was over! When Lou questioned Nick about the missing funds (tens of thousands of dollars), she was bombarded with scripture, all of which she was unfamiliar with. But the common scripture that was regurgitated was “Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord.” Remembering that Lou was brand new to Christianity, she was taught that this meant men take care of the finances and basically the woman is more or less a doormat. Lou, a strong woman, was no doormat, definitely not the doormat type. But now she was in a Christian marriage, so she accepted that this was the way it would be. Over just a few months, Nick had taken complete control of her life, all in the name of Christianity. The car was in his name, her business that she started years before she knew Nick was put into his name, and all he gave her was an allowance from the funds he took, sometimes as little as $10 at a time. If she wanted to get lunch with girlfriends, often they would have to pay. It was at one of these lunches that a friend questioned her about a bruise on her arm. This was the breaking point where she broke down in that restaurant and could not control the tears. She knew what was happening even though she was in denial, and she repeatedly covered for him. Lou’s friend belonged to the same church and asked her what her marriage looked like as a “Christian” marriage. After Lou’s response, her friend looked at her in complete shock. The level of control that was exerted over her sparked warning signs. She urged Lou to organize a meeting with the lead pastor of the church and tell him what was going on. Lou reached out, but he was not available for a few weeks. Then she got a call just a few days later, and space had become available (only because her friend had called the pastor and said this just couldn’t wait and that she was concerned). When Lou met with the pastor, he clarified the meaning of the scripture. The pastor told her that the situation described to him was nothing short of oppressive. He asked if she would like the men and elders of the church to stage an intervention with Nick. Lou refused because she was afraid that doing so would end up with her dead in a ditch somewhere.

Let’s discuss the physical abuse that had started. It began with objects being thrown at her from across the room, followed by occasional pushes and grabs, and then escalated from there. The situation had become so strained that on many occasions, she feared for her life. Lou messaged her dad in the UK, saying, “If anything happened to me, it was Nick,” and provided him with her friend’s details in Nashville. She also sent the same message to her friend and shared her dad’s contact information. Lou met with her counsellor at the church and expressed her fear for her life. However, she wasn’t sure if anyone took her seriously. You see, Nick was a master manipulator and narcissist. Everyone loved him because of his charm, charisma, and ability to talk his way out of anything.

One morning in early 2021, Lou woke up to banging on her bedroom door very early in the morning. At that point, Lou and Nick were sleeping in separate rooms, and she always kept her door locked because she was afraid. Nick was demanding her car keys, so she opened the bedroom door. Nick grabbed his gun, but Lou quickly shut the bedroom door, locked it, and called her friend. Her friend had assured Lou that she would answer if she ever called, and despite it being the early hours of the morning, she answered and told Lou to hang up and call 911 immediately. The police arrived, treating it like just another routine domestic violence call, but Lou says, “It was just one of the many I had to make.” Nick falsely claimed to the police that he had the gun to stop Lou from using it. Lou, who was born and raised in two countries with strict gun laws, didn’t even know how to use a gun. It was a false narrative that Nick was beginning to portray. The police left after providing both Lou and Nick with information on who to contact in cases of domestic violence, without taking any further action.

After that incident, Lou stayed with her friend for a while but was still in love with Nick and kept going back. Over the next few weeks, she discovered multiple hidden cameras in the apartment, found out that Nick had hacked into her iCloud and monitored her phone records, and even found hidden recording devices. Slowly, she started to realize that she had to leave. Her friend helped her figure out the next steps, but staying in the US was dependent on Lou’s marriage to Nick, and he knew it. He began to threaten her with deportation. Immigration abuse is recognized by the US government as a form of abuse, indicating its prevalence. Around this time, Lou decided to remove her engagement and wedding rings, placing them in a safe place. She hadn’t given them much thought since removing them. One day, Nick demanded the rings from her. Lou refused, stating that they were in a safe place. A few hours later, he returned in a somewhat manic state and accused her of selling the rings for drugs. He presented her with a drug test, and despite being shocked, Lou had nothing to hide, so she took the test, which obviously came back negative. Despite passing the drug test and documenting the results with photos and videos, Nick called 911 and falsely accused Lou of drug use. Nick was clearly mentally unstable at this point. He then went down to the leasing office with a copy of the lease agreement, which stated that any drug use would result in lease termination. The police and the leasing manager came to the apartment, where Lou showed them the negative drug test, leaving everyone confused.

After that incident, Nick started removing anything and everything he could from the apartment. The police advised Lou to go directly to the Domestic Violence help centre and file for an order of protection, as they all knew where things were heading. Lou had previously been in touch with the Domestic Violence agency and had a case worker who had tried to convince her to file for an order of protection, but at the time, Lou was still in love with Nick and didn’t want anything worse to happen to either of them. This final episode made her realize she was ready. The office staff processed her request fairly quickly, but while it was being submitted to the judge, they asked Lou to wait in her car outside. While waiting in the car, Lou’s social worker came out and asked if she had told Nick that she was going to the office. Lou said no, and the social worker informed her that he had called the office as he knew she was there. There was a tracker on her car. Just 20 minutes later, the judge approved Lou’s order of protection, and a sheriff had to serve Nick. Lou went back to the apartment to give a copy to her leasing manager, as the order of protection meant Nick wasn’t allowed on the property. When she arrived, the police were already there, as the leasing manager had described Nick as having some sort of manic episode. The situation had escalated, and people had to intervene. The police radioed in to see if they could serve the paperwork instead of the sheriff, and they were given permission. Nick was served and removed from the property, and he had to surrender his firearms to the Sheriff’s office. This brought some relief to Lou, but she knew that an order of protection was just a piece of paper and meant nothing when someone was determined to hurt you. The order of protection stipulated zero contact with Lou or through her friends and family, with any violation resulting in an arrest. Nick violated the order of protection on multiple occasions and was arrested, but he bonded out after the mandatory hold.

Lou was now focused on the next steps in her life, whether she would be able to stay in the US or leave it behind forever. She received immigration help from a Domestic Violence Coalition in Nashville and had a divorce attorney. Over the next few months, Lou provided piece after piece of proof of continued abuse. The abuse never stopped, and there were days when she didn’t want to wake up. She experienced various forms of abuse, including hacking into her Amazon account and making unauthorized purchases. On September 16, 2021, Lou sent a message to her immigration attorney at the DV coalition, saying, “I am at the point where I just don’t know where this ends. Does this end with him killing me or with me taking my own life? If this is how my life is going to be, with him constantly trying to hurt me or ruin things, then I don’t want to live like this.” This was when Lou realized that the policing system was not adequately equipped to help people in her situation until it was too late. Things were bad, and they got worse. Nick wouldn’t agree to the divorce unless Lou let him continue to run and own her company. Lou’s divorce attorney advised her to let him have it, as the company’s success was only because of her. She was advised to start a new one. Overnight, something she had spent years building was gone. In the divorce, she did manage to reclaim tens of thousands of dollars and ownership of her car, and for Lou, that was enough. She wanted to move on and leave Nashville as quickly as possible. After moving to a new state, the abuse continued in some form for a few months, such as threatening text messages from unknown numbers. But almost two years later, things seemed to have settled down.

Immediately after the divorce, Lou started a new company. Nothing changed from her previous company that he now owned, other than it is a new brand name. It wasn’t easy, as he targeted the new company and tried to tear it down. Eventually, Lou consulted with a business attorney who helped ensure everything was protected. She had to take everything one day at a time, and slowly things started to come together. Within a month of launching the new company, Lou was able to land over 30 new retailers. She put everything she had into making it a success because it was all she had. Despite Nick’s attempts to ruin her, knowing she was covered and her business was protected allowed her to finally move on to the next chapter of her life.

Lou moved to the beach, her happy place, and spent nights watching the sunset, questioning why all of this had happened and what she should do next. Most people might have packed up and moved back to Australia, but Lou felt there was a reason she was in the US, perhaps to continue building her successful business. As a storyteller and friend of Lou’s, I can say that it may be true, as she is using her experience to help others. Lou’s business now dedicates 5% of all profits to helping men, women, and children suffering from domestic violence.

By the time you realize you need to get out, you have probably tried to leave 6-7 times, but the abuser will bombard you with false promises that you believe because you are in love. It will not change. Perhaps momentarily things will be good, but the next cycle of abuse will be worse than the previous one. The police are often powerless in domestic violence situations, not because they don’t want to help, but due to the way the law is structured. Lou urges you to find a domestic violence agency; they are the people who can help. Lou’s domestic violence case worker truly saved her life. No one besides you will understand what you went through or are going through, and that’s okay. But even on the darkest days, just know that you are strong, and with time, your wounds, whether mental or physical, will heal.

Today, Lou is doing great. “It sounds crazy, but I don’t regret moving to the US. I could have done without marrying Nick, but everything I went through made me the woman I am today. I learned just how resilient I am, and my business is thriving. I am about to launch my second company next week, and I get to travel a lot for my businesses. I lost everything I had ever worked for in just a few short months, but less than 2 years later, I have built up my business to be bigger than ever. I don’t know if I will stay in the US long-term; I miss Australia every day. I remain open to love, but my walls are up, and that’s understandable. There are still things that trigger me; there is a certain song that, if it plays, triggers an instant panic attack because it takes me right back to when I thought I was going to die. I also struggle with my faith. I remain a Christian and stand by the many experiences I have had with God independent of Nick, but I do wonder why God would use Nick to introduce me to Christianity only to allow him to do the things he did to me. What was God’s plan in all this?”

Lou’s story is one of resilience, strength, and the unwavering spirit to rise above the darkest of circumstances. Through the trials and tribulations she faced, she emerged as a survivor and an inspiration to others. She rebuilt her life, started a successful business, and dedicated herself to helping those who suffer from domestic violence. Lou’s journey reminds us of the power we hold within ourselves to overcome adversity and find hope even in the most challenging times. If you want to support Lou’s business, you can head over to Loukagold for beautiful homewares and towels. Keep an eye out on our Instagram as we will post about Lou’s up-and-coming company.

We extend our deepest gratitude to Lou for her immense courage and vulnerability in sharing her story. It takes incredible strength to open up about such personal experiences, and her willingness to do so has undoubtedly touched the lives of many. Lou’s bravery in breaking the silence surrounding domestic violence serves as a beacon of hope for those who may be trapped in similar situations.

Lou, thank you for shining a light on the realities of domestic violence and the journey of healing and rebuilding. Your resilience and determination inspire us all. Your commitment to helping others through your business is a testament to your compassion and selflessness. Your story has the power to create awareness, bring about change, and offer solace to those who need it most.

May your path be filled with continued strength, healing, and success. As you embark on new endeavours and face new chapters in your life, know that your story will continue to impact and empower others. Thank you for reminding us of the indomitable human spirit and for being a source of inspiration. You are a true beacon of hope, and we are grateful to have crossed paths with you.

With heartfelt appreciation,

Her Weekly Edit Community x

 

 

If you need help please contact the below resources for information on how to get out of a domestic violence situation.

If in New Zealand please contact SHINE for help with domestic violence.

If in Australia please contact 1800RESPECT for help with domestic violence and Lifeline.

In in United States of America please contact the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

In the event of an emergency please call Emergency Services

NZ 111

Australia 000

USA 911

 

 

For legal reasons some names have been changed in this article.

 

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